Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Great Porch Project

The 1960s, eh? Great music. Terrible buildings.

Amongst the least pleasant of the constructions of the decade was the porch on our house. Thinking was different in those days. Out with the old! In with the new!

So my parents bought this late-Victorian house, built in 1896, and proceeded to rip out every shred of its original character.

Actually, the process was begun by Winston Churchill in the 1940s when he took away our iron railings to be used in the fight against Hitler. I'm not sure that our win was entirely thanks to this, but I do hope it helped because the little marks where the railings used to be do not enhance the look of our wall.

When we moved in, in 1959, there was a kind of open porch at the front with two pillars and little seats at the side. Even at the age of three, I thought it was a Good Thing. But oh no. The Communist thought it was far too - well - Victorian - so it had to go.

Now, of course, we think of Victorian design as historic and characterful. The Communist, born in 1923, regarded everything from the nineteenth century as just hideously old-fashioned. Off with its head!

So the pillars and little seats had to go. I have to tell you that I protested. But did anyone listen? No they did not. I was only three and what did I know about the new Spirit of Freedom of the age?

The house is all curves - big, curved bay windows - and so were the pillars. What a bad idea it was to replace them with an oblong box of a porch, mostly comprised of windows and a with a door too narrow to get any useful furniture through, even after you've carried it up the flight of steps.

All furniture, therefore, has to come in through the back door. That's a slightly wider door, though also up a flight of fairly narrow steps with a bend in them. Once stuff comes in, you can never get it out again, which is why our furniture range looks like the entire stock of one of the poorer second-hand-furniture shops.

My mother kept the porch full of plants and at one time I suppose they looked fine, or as fine as plants can ever look when they're in a hideous Sixties porch stuck on the front of a Victorian house.

Then when my parents moved out in 1999, they left the blasted plants. They're still there, all leggy and scraggy. I'd have chucked them all ages ago except my mother comes and tidies them from time to time, and I would feel cruel.

Over the years, the wood of the window-frames has rotted. The paint on them has peeled. The shelves on which the plants stand have gradually started to slope at a jaunty angle so from time to time a plant or two will crash to the floor throwing soil all over.

There's a slot on the wall next to the door for letters. You can look in from the lounge bay window to see if there are any letters in the porch: I remember doing this sneakily one Valentine's Day when I was seventeen to see if by any chance there were any Valentine cards for me. (There was one. I never found out who it was from in spite of extensive enquiries involving handwriting experts and MI5).

Over the porch is the original Victorian tiled roof that used to be atop the pillars. Yes, it does look ridiculous, since you ask.

Meanwhile, the white coating on the house, last redone ten years ago, is coming off and letting damp in and so needs to be redone again. Sighhhhhh.

But there's no point in redoing the white coating without first doing something about the blasted porch.

So that's what we're going to do. It's got to go. Something has to replace it, and I have a feeling it has to be another porch, just to keep the weather off the front door and the house a bit warmer.

On with the Great Porch Project. Sorry, Dad.


Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

Any chance of a photo or two of your current porch as I can't quite picture it in my head? It is funny how in the fifties and sixties British people eschewed Victoriana. How many homes had ugly hardboard pinned over lovely Victorian panel doors? It seems crazy now.

12:15 pm  
Blogger Jennyta said...

A replica of the original, surely! :)

12:50 pm  
Blogger Daphne said...

YP - - don't worry, some delightful photos will follow in due course. As for the hardboard over lovely panel doors - yes, our house is full of that, too, and we're gradually reclaiming the doors!
Jenny - oh, I'd love a replica of the original but I don't think that any photos exist, and the way it's been rebuilt it does need windows, which it didn't have before - - we'll see!

5:49 pm  

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